First there was Etsy. Then, we all wanted our own Etsy.
This dream seemed to be possible when WooThemes released Product Vendors– a WooCommerce marketplace plugin that promised to let multiple vendors sell on on a single woocommerce-powered site.
It wasn’t long till we realized the dream was too good to be true.
Two features every Woocommerce Marketplace Plugin needs, but Product Vendors doesn’t have.
The WooCommerce Product Vendors Plugin (now on Version 1.1.5) is currently not a practical stand-alone solution for anyone looking to build the next Etsy. Why?
Vendors cannot view/update their own orders from the backend.
That’s right. Your vendors can log in to an ‘admin’ page. Through their backend portal, vendors can add/edit their own products to your WooCommerce store using the unfriendly default WooCommerce interface for adding products.
Once added, the products get assigned to the vendor that added them. The products (if approved by you) are available for purchase on your WooCommerce site.
But once a vendor’s product is ordered/purchased through your website… what then? This WooCommerce Marketplace Plugin has no way of automatically letting your vendor know that their product has been purchased. The vendor can’t update the order to indicate the product has shipped, or use WooCommerce’s nifty shipment tracking plugin to let the customer track their order.
This critical process–notifying the vendor that an order has been placed and updating that order– can only be done by you. This isn’t a sustainable process for a WooCommerce Marketplace Plugin consisting of any more than a handful of vendors.
Automated shipping plugins (USPS, UPS, etc) do not work ‘per vendor’
Fortunately, WooCommerce offers many stellar shipping plugins for automated shipping estimations and charges for the seller and customers.
Unfortunately, these plugins don’t work in a useful way for Product Vendors. These shipping plugins are configurable to accept one shipping location. Since each vendor in your marketplace likely has a different shipping location, setting a single shipping location for the entire site will not do.
Two plugins that might help your WooCommerce Marketplace get by–for now
WooCommerce Advanced Notifications will let you create ‘new order’ notifications. This will enable an automated email notification to go out to a vendor when one of their products has been ordered.
You will have to then use Advanced Notifications to include instructions (email reply? form submission?) to your vendor on how to let the marketplace site admin know when they have shipped their product. The marketplace site admin will then have to manually update the status of that order and include any shipment tracking information in that order for the customer.
WooCommerce Per Product Shippingwill let vendors define shipping costs for each product they add. The upside here is that product shipping cost will take into account the vendor shipping location. Your vendor could define a product shipping cost TO different locations (say to the United States, vs France). The downside is that, like adding products, your vendors may find the default backend interface for defining shipping costs a bit unintuitive.
WooCommerce Marketplace Plugin: Worth it?
So.. is all hope lost? I don’t think so. Currently, this plugin is no doubt falling short of expectations, but it is still early in the game. With interest in a robust WooCommerce marketplace plugin steadily increasing, WooThemes has ample motivation to deliver a plugin worthy of their good name.
There are a few other plugins on the market that purport to natively support WooCommerce and purport to include some of the critical (but as of yet) missing functionality I’ve just discussed. However, I’ve found reliable reviews for those plugins to be scarce. When WooThemes comes out with the next great version release of Product Vendors, I’d hate to be locked in to a non WooThemes product that may or may not see regular updates and that may or may not support WooThemes’ other many kick-ass support plugins.
So for now, I’m gonna make do with the ‘workarounds,’ so that when WooThemes releases the version of Product Vendors that lives up to promises, I’ll be ready.